25 September 2006


...is the sound you should never make while practicing the Yang short taiji form. It's also the name of the most recent Discworld book to come out in paperback. Awesome read. It's not as dark as the last two were. Some dark moments, yes, but overall it was much, much lighter. Or, possibly, my mood is lighter than it was last winter. Likely some of both. I found it at the Border's in Logan on Saturday night...and finished it last night.

Summary? Well, the anniversary of Koom Valley is coming up, and the dwarves and trolls are getting themselves all worked up. In the middle of all this, a rabble rousing dwarf is found dead with a troll's club next to him. Vimes must take precious time out from reading Where's My Cow? to his young son to try and stop the pressure from mounting into a riot or war. Oh, and deal with a strange demonic dwarf symbol that seems to be following him around. And figure out what the deep dwarves are up, er, down to, and who Mr. Shine is. And incidentally, find out that Koom Valley isn't what anyone thought it was. ;^)

As far as the taiji workshop... I learned a lot. It was pretty awesome the times when Ben Lo passed me by while walking through and making corrections. At the least, I wasn't making any obvious errors then. The corrections I did get? Keep fair maiden's wrist in places I hadn't realize I'd been losing it. Bend hip joint (mostly I didn't get that one...until Sunday, when my legs were too tired; but I figured out that with the sacrum straight I COULD still bend the hip joint). One that I need to ask Don about: thirty degrees total between the feet at closing. I was taught sixty degrees, thirty on either side. Don will probably check Cheng man Ching's last book to get the official decree. I need to get myself a copy, I've decided. I still haven't figured out Ben Lo's way of doing Bend Bow to Shoot Tiger. I know what the final posture is, but not the transitions to get there. Oh, I also got corrections related to tense shoulders. It seems that some of the tension from last winter worked its way into my shoulders. Letting it go has been mildly...painful. It's my first experience of finding emotions locked away in the form of tension, though I'd read about the phenomenon before.

On the plus side, my legs are actually in better shape than they were a year ago. I suppose I have all the hiking I did to thank for that, since I have not been as assiduous in my practice as I was last summer. Most interestingly, when we switched over to push hands on Saturday, my legs hardly bothered me. The other person was always ready to switch sides before I was (with one exception, where we were both ready at the same time). So I was rather pleased by that. I also pushed with one of Kayo's students (Bruce, I think). We were pretty close to evenly matched, but he has phenomenal root. The only times I pushed him out were when he started an attack and I managed to get out while he was in an awkward position. The key? Relaxing my right shoulder. *sighs*

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23 September 2006

Brain Full, Body Tired

This weekend is the third annual Benjamin Lo workshop in Logan, Utah. I got up at five this morning, because I never received word about what time it was starting. I got here around 7:40...and found out we didn't actually start until 10. Ah well. I had time to do some warmups and yoga beforehand.

I found out something that I didn't know about bow stance in the first two hour session. Bow stance, in a nutshell, has shoulder width, one foot in front of the other, back foot at forty five degrees. Seventy percent of the weight should be on the front foot (which requires squaring the hips to the front foot and bending the hip joints); thirty percent should be on the back foot. There was a session last night that I missed, but someone who was there made the observation that when he watched the senior students, their back legs went straight down from their hips, in line with their bodies. Ben Lo said that was a good observation, and I find that it is easier to keep my back knee in line with my toes that way. It also...works my ankle differently, and the ankle bends a lot more easily in that direction than it did with what I'd been doing before. As far as I'm concerned, that insight alone was worth the price of the workshop.

And it got better. We broke off form work during the afternoon session to push hands. I pushed with several people, all reasonably good. As in, good enough that they could get away from many of my pushes, and they sometimes pushed me out. There's something to learn from ANYone at push hands, but someone way better than me or way worse will get either frustrating or boring after a while.

Tonight I'm in a Best Western near the workshop (though tomorrow we're meeting in a different place; the usual place has acquired some new church groups who use the space on Sundays). And now it's time to find food and go wandering. There's a Borders here that sometimes gets stuff sooner than Idaho bookstores, and has a different selection than any of my regular bookstore haunts. So, uh, food now... Before I get too hungry to realize I'm hungry.

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22 September 2006

Weak Week

Free advice. If you ever decide to disinfect plastic water bottles using hydrogen peroxide, rinse them out thoroughly before reusing them. I just figured the extra would evaporate, no problem. Uh, no. Despite the fact that there couldn't have been very much left in them (less than a teaspoon in a 1.5 Liter bottle), there was a noticeable and unpleasant taste. Followed by nausea if the taste wasn't deterrent enough. I suspect that's the reason I've been extra tired this week as well. Anyway, all the afflicted bottles have now been rinsed and are no longer making me feel ill.

In other news, my mom is getting an emergency egress window installed in her basement. This is now a requirement if you resell a house, and she figured she might as well do it while she was replacing all the windows. The guy who came by early in the week was a complete and total idiotic jerk, who misinformed her on many subjects and had her very freaked out. Basically, he said that putting in the emergency egress window would fill the room with water and mud, etc, and that she'd have to move a rather large built-in shelf next to a different window, and I don't know what all. So we spent Monday and Tuesday evening clearing out the egress room, pulling up the carpet and attempting to pull the paneling off (which would require either pulling up the tack strips for the carpet or taking down the ceiling, so far as I could tell). We left the carpet pad, since it was glued to the concrete. A different guy came on Wednesday and said we'd done plenty and they could work around the paneling, and wherever did we get the idea it would be THAT messy? *sighs*

My mom was nice enough to include three windows at my house in her replacement. Most of the windows in my house were nearly new when I bought it. But for some weird reason two of the basement windows had not been replaced. As it turns out, the wood in the frames is rotten, so they were well overdue. I'm also having them replace an itty-bitty window in the garage that seems to be an opening with two mismatched pieces of glass sort of slid into it. When I heard the cost for just those three windows at my house, I decided I really didn't want to know what Mom was paying total. She went for the ultimate, top of the line.

Speaking of windows, I finally found some curtains for my bedroom that I really liked. My basement already had the emergency egress window in it, and it's in my room, so I've got a full-size window down there. These are the first curtains I've bought without planning to dye them! ;^D They were at Fred Meyer, mostly cotton, gorgeous striped jacquard pattern in tones of beige with almost a watermark design. Minor problem: they were ninety inches long, and my basement ceiling is about seventy-eight inches. My mom took them to a friend of hers who sews and had her cut them down, and I also had her sew the cut-off pieces together into a smaller curtain for the smaller window in there. The small one is up, since there's no way to get a decent curtain rod there. Well, no easy way. So it's on a tension rod instead. I've got a copper rod with a Celtic motiff for the large window, but I'd really like to paint down there first. *sighs*

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18 September 2006

Picture Time!

So it's a bit later than most people's weekends, but since I don't go to work until 16:00 today, I still consider Monday morning the weekend. Here are some pictures of the north side of the room with the bamboo flooring. Why north? Because that's the side that is mostly done. I might put a few shelves up above the chairs, and I obviously have some paint touch-ups to do, but that's about it. And...pictures away!

The chair at left is the one that had been acting as a storage bin downstairs for a while. I bought it with some birthday money my grandma gave me several summers ago, and I am very pleased to have it in a space where I can now use it. It's quite comfy, too. The chair at right is new, bought to balance out the other chair on that side of the room. It's not quite as comfy, but it works. It's a lot darker than the other chair, so I threw in the light-toned pillows to tone it down a bit. The snazzy-looking one is actually a blue pillow in a cover I found on clearance at a craft store. The blue looked okay, but the gold looks better.

The table in the middle belonged to my grandma, then my mom decided to get a set of all matching tables for the living room and it went to me. The dragon menagerie on top is not a permanent fixture... I was going to hang up a geometrically patterned shelf to put the dragons on, but the way the manufacturers intended for it to be hung up is nowhere near stable. So I have to add some better hardware before that can happen. And I'm not sure the shelf works in the room anyway, so I'm thinking a few of the dragons will stay and the others will go back to the living room.

And this one is a view of the northwest corner, mainly to show off the fish painting that inspired the blue accents. They really work in there to soften the red walls. The north wall and part of the east wall are white. Everything else is red, except the door, its trim, and the inside of the west window.

Minor change of plans regarding the planned tea-cart. I found a nice bench at Pier 1 Imports (where the rest of the furniture in there came from, actually) with a cupboard under it. I think it will work better than either of the carts that I currently have. I also plan to put up some mirrors on the south wall. This will help me check my posture in yoga and taiji, reflect back light, and break up the red on that wall. One mirror I found in the garage, and I'm almost certain it was in the house during the fire. Yup. Fire. Several years before I bought this place, there was a fire caused by a short in Christmas lights strung around it. The mirror cleaned up more easily than I expected, but it is scratched up. I haven't decided yet if that's enough reason not to use it. I've also got a large mirror downstairs that I want to extract from its frame (a former Wal-Mart shoe-bench that I found at a garage sale). Anyway, I've got a bunch of tests to grade, so that's it for the moment.

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16 September 2006

Less than wonderful concert...

George Winston. Pianist. Excellent technique. Very tiresome filligrees. The polite short version of the problem can best be summed up as musical purple prose. To put it another way, imagine a beautifully handsewn dress, with the most sumptuous fabric and beautiful jewel tones...so covered in thick heavy lace that you can't even SEE the dress. That is George Winston, especially on pieces that he himself arranged. There was measure upon measure upon measure upon measure of filligree. Well-done filligree, but it added nothing but boredom. Even my MOM was getting bored, and she's really into almost anything piano. The best pieces were those composed by someone else that he didn't extemporize on, or those played on guitar or harmonica. The harmonica piece was AWESOME. It was an Appalachian tune, likely bluegrass.

Sadly, he got a standing ovation. Not from me or Mom. I never stand unless I really mean it. On the bright side, his encore piece was on guitar. Much, much better.

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13 September 2006


As it turns out, four cups (dry) beans, water to soak them, 29 oz. tomato sauce, 10 oz frozen corn, two pounds ground up dead cow, four bell peppers, two onions, and four small cloves of garlic are a bit too much for my large stewpot. After letting the beans cook down for nearly an hour, I was finally able to get all the hamburger/pepper/onion mixture in. It's less than a half inch from the top. On the bright side, the chili's going to be nice and thick and should provide meals for at least a week.:^)

The bamboo floor is in. It looks AWESOME (I might post a picture or two this weekend). I dragged a wicker chair up from the basement that thusfar had served mostly as a place to dump laundry and blankets. I also put one of my grandma's end tables in there. If it's going to stay where it currently is, I need another chair to balance things out. I got my fish "painting" hung up (using not-quite-velcro, oddly enough). I've got two potential tea-carts. One of them will go in as well. The rest I plan to leave open, as a space to practice taiji and/or yoga. I've got some shelves to put up to hold stuff, since I don't want any more furniture on the floor.

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11 September 2006

When Square is Good

My bamboo floor is now being installed, and I now know exactly why I had so much trouble when I tried to put a floor in there myself. The walls are not square. Not even close. He couldn't find two walls in either that room or the adjoining hall that were actually square or parallel to each other. So, yeah, no wonder I was having problems. He wound up starting in the doorway itself and lining the floorboards up with the particle board undersurface. But I'm glad to know it wasn't total incompetence on my part. If I'd realized that was the problem, I might have been able to compensate, but I had still cut up too many of the boards to complete the project. And bamboo is much, MUCH prettier.

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09 September 2006

Paved with...Sand?

Yesterday, Dad decided to take the shell off the pickup. When I got home, I found out that this was likely my only chance to get materials to finish my pathway. For $17, they used a bulldozer to scoop up sand and dump it into the bed of the pickup. I had planned to get rocks, but the guy at the concrete place said sand tended not to shift as much. Anyway, you don't really appreciate how much a bulldozer can shift at once until you've had to shift a similar amount by hand. That was fun. Well, I thought so. My mom is planning to run away to Siberia if I ever ask her to help with anything remotely similar. Or possibly Bermuda. At any rate, I now have more sand than I know what to do with, and the walkway is roughly one third done. The "porch" for the garage is done all out of the rectangular bricks. For the rest, I've been putting in circular stepping stones and filling in gaps with brick as best I can. It has a rather chaotic look that I like. It will get more chaotic when I run out of circular stones. All I could find this year were hexagonal ones.

The best part about shifting the sand was finding ways to apply taiji prinicples to it. Use the legs, NOT the back. Never the back. Anyone who EVER tells you to "put your back into it" is either trying to ruin your health or has no idea how the human body actually functions.

I finally found curtain rods for my recently dyed curtains. Wal-Mart. Eck. I only went because Mom was driving and I hadn't checked at Wal-Mart yet. I despise crowds, and Wal-Mart is nearly always crowded. But they actually had some curtain rods that I liked. Sort of pewter with a decorative loop at either end. Black would have been better, but I was sick of looking anyway. So I need to get those up tomorrow and see how the blue looks. I may still try to lighten it a bit and/or put some green it to make the color more teal. *shrugs*

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07 September 2006

Not much to report

In between teaching, I've worked on a few small projects around the house. Also, the bamboo flooring is now sitting in the back room, waiting to be installed. Monday that room will be nearly ready to use. It will need a few paint touchups, and I may or may not have the curtains hung up by then. Ah yes. The curtains.

On Saturday, my mom and I wandered in IF. The only substantial thing that I found was a print of an Asian style painting of some fish. Gorgeous, with reddish orange fish and a washed in blue background. I wasn't sure how it would look in the back room, but it looks awesome. So then this week when I found some white curtains on clearance at Fred Meyer, I bought enough for the windows and decided to dye them a light blue. Despite using only one packet, they've turned out slightly darker than I wanted, but I think they'll still work. Also, one window faces directly west. When the curtain there sun fades a bit, I'll switch it with the other to let it fade.

I also wound up buying a new frame for my bed. When my mom moved over to Grandma's house, I wound up with a full headboard and footboard. Problem is that my bed is queen size. For the headboard, I just attached a board (from the original full bed) to the bedframe and attached the headboard to that. No problem. The problem was that the frame did NOT have a footboard attachment. After staring at it and trying to come up with a reasonable way to extend the frame out, I gave up, and bought a frame with the appropriate connections. I haven't got the footboard attached yet, but I THINK I can just use two-by-fours attached to the frame and L-brackets to attach those to the footboard. Sure, I could go with a board across again, but any bolts I put through the footboard will show. Those through the headboard are nicely hidden.

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06 September 2006

Lead with the Hilt!

I had an epiphany practicing in the park this morning. One of the keys to making the sword form work is leading with the hilt. As soon as I got the feel of that, my form improved immensely. At taiji camp, I finally figured out what it really feels like to sink the sacrum (bottom part of the spine). Today I realized that really getting the sacrum sunk throughout the bare-hand form gives me much the same feeling as leading with the hilt in the sword form. And a lot of moves I can now cross correlate between the forms, with the sacrum/waist as the hilt. The blade is sometimes the hands, sometimes the feet, and sometimes the whole body, but the feeling is much the same. I think if I can work with that in mind, I can take both forms up a notch or two! *grins*

That's one of many things that I love about taiji. There's no end. There will always be room for improvement and work. Some people reach a point where they decide "That's it. That's good enough for me." I doubt that I'll ever be satisfied. I will continue to want to make it even better. Even the acknowledged masters of the art continue to work to make it better and better. Maggie Newman, one of Cheng man ching's six American "pillars," said that she was so grateful to him for giving her something that was impossible to do. Something that she could keep working on for her whole life. I agree.

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04 September 2006

Random Selections

I suppose I'll have to begin on a sad note. Steve Irwin, aka the Crocodile Hunter, is dead. I first saw this on Pharyngula, but Orac's article has more detail, and links to more of the press coverage. It's almost funny that it was a stingray that did him in. Stingrays are usually docile, unless you step on them. All I can say is, I feel bad for Terry and the kids.

And now for something completely different: a Christian denounces public prayer after the horrors of being exposed to a pregame Buddhist prayer in Hawaii. Which suggests a good way to eliminate the prayer in school movement: alternate with prayers from every religion represented in the school district. As well as non-prayer days for the atheists. That way, no one gets left out. Not the Satanists, the pagans, the Wiccans, the Buddhists, the Taoists, the Muslims, the animists... Honestly, that's the only way to get prayer in school, since anything else is effectively establishing a state religion, specifically forbidden in the first amendment. I can just imagine the outcry.

In other news, most of the digging for my path to the garage is done. I stopped because I realized I needed another curvy border piece, then noticed it was time for dinner. By the time I had eaten and run back to Lowe's for the extra piece, it was too dark to work. So I'll start that up again later in the day. Hopefully I've got enough rock and sand to get it done. :^)

UPDATE: Nope. Not nearly enough rock. Not sure about the sand yet, but I'm going to need a LOT more rock. I talked to a guy at Home Depot, and he said it would be a lot cheaper to go out to a cement factory and get some crushed rock there. For that, I need dad's pickup, minus the camper shell. He said he was planning to take the shell off NEXT weekend, and sulkily refused to do so beforehand. *sighs* So that project is stalled. I do have the "porch" to the garage in place (rectangle of 24 = 8x3 bricks just outside the regular door). The rest of the path looks rather forlorn and barren. Still, the really hard part is done, so once I get the rock it shouldn't be too bad to finish. Oh, there were already blocks in as a porch from some previous owner. I dug them out. From the looks of things, they filled three buckets with concrete and had some sort of divider down the middle. So the stones I dug out were half-cylinders of concrete. I haven't decided if I have a use for them or not.

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03 September 2006


Turns out that part of the reason my head felt so odd while I was changing out that faucet was because my mom had generously shared her cold with me. I wound up with a much milder version than she did, but it was just starting to hit last Sunday. It's gone now, but it does necessitate replacing all the water bottles I've been using.

So, projects for today/tomorrow. I'd like to change out the kitchen faucet. I'll have to see if any of my tools will reach up behind the sink before I try it. If not, I'll need to acquire longer tools. I also need to get all the stuff out of the back room. Tomorrow (or Wednesday? since tomorrow's a holiday) they're bringing the bamboo flooring out to acclimate to the house, then a week from tomorrow they're supposed to install it. I'm planning to use the room as a combination dojo/tearoom. I'd been using a room in the basement as a dojo, but I just can't stand to be down there any more. It's like a cave. This room has two windows, so it gets both air and light.

I've also started (barely) working on a path from the back door to the garage. See, I had all these red cinder bricks stacked up from an aborted attempt at a huge flower garden (too many weeds; I needed to start with completely fresh soil). They've just been gathering dust, spiders and earwig nests, but now I figure they'll be good borders for the path way. I've also dug out some stepping stones I laid out several years back that were more than half overgrown with grass. For the rest, I need sand, some white gravel, and to make a framework. I might put some mortar along the outside, so that I can remove the framework eventually, but I'm not sure about that yet. Anyway, being outside is more appealing than being under a sink, so I'll probably head over to Lowe's in a bit to look for supplies. On the bright side, I found a whole bunch of fence timber when I was cleaning out the garage, so I'll use that for the framework and NOT have to buy any lumber. I suppose I could actually use it to make a fence, but that backyard gets so little sunlight as is that I'd rather stick with chainlink if I put a fence back there.

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